Notre Dame gets the letter: Consensus four-star safety Nolan Ziegler
Catholic Central High School; Grand Rapids, Mich.Measurements: 6-foot-4, 205 pounds.Accolades: The consensus four-star is considered the No. 16 “athlete” in the class, per rivals.com, and the No. 6 prospect in the state of Michigan. Ziegler playing on both sides of the ball in high school — receiver and safety — creates the need for that “athlete” designation, even if his future is pretty clearly on defense at the next level.
Other notable offers: A Notre Dame legacy and Catholic-school product, Ziegler was likely to always end up Irish despite Michigan’s, Iowa’s and Nebraska’s best efforts. He committed to Notre Dame in August of 2020, worth mentioning not only because it was so long ago as the second commit in this class (after consensus four-star offensive lineman Joey Tanona) and not just because it was during the pandemic, thus eliminating Ziegler’s hopes of an official visit before committing, but also because his is the sole defensive commitment predating Marcus Freeman’s arrival in South Bend.
Projected position: Ziegler’s length makes him an ideal safety candidate, but if he bulks up much, a move up to linebacker would not be terribly shocking.
Quick take: Freeman spent considerable time on Sunday discussing the need for “speed and length” at safety, and Ziegler may help fill that want, the same one that sparked the move of Ramon Henderson from cornerback to safety this season. Ziegler’s fit in Freeman’s secondary will hinge on his coverage abilities, particularly his man-to-man coverage abilities.
Short-term roster outlook: It cannot be denied, the Irish are shallow at safety, hence the Henderson move after Kyle Hamilton’s season-ending knee injury in mid-October. It remains to be seen if either senior Houston Griffith or senior DJ Brown return in 2022, but with junior Litchfield Ajavon already in the transfer portal, Notre Dame could have a real need along its backline next season. Ziegler was not recruited with the expectation that he play from day one, but he could be in the rotation that quickly.
Long-term depth chart impact: Both Henderson and former receiver, now safety Xavier Watts have three years of eligibility remaining, and the current freshman pair of Justin Walters and Khari Gee will each have four years remaining entering 2022 (presuming Walters does not play in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day).
EARLY SIGNING PERIOD COVERAGE
Consensus four-star defensive end Aiden Gobaira
Consensus four-star safety Nolan Ziegler
Consensus three-star quarterback Steve Angeli
Consensus three-star defensive tackle Donovan Hinish, Kurt’s brother
Consensus four-star linebackers Jaylen Sneed and Joshua Burnham
Punter Bryce McFerson, former Wake Forest commit
Consensus four-star running back Jadarian Price
Tight ends Eli Raridon and Holden Staes
Consensus four-star defensive end Tyson Ford, the first commit to Marcus Freeman back in January
Cornerbacks Benjamin Morrison and Jayden Bellamy
Consensus four-star linebacker Niuafe Tuihalamaka, former USC commit
Consensus four-star receiver Tobias Merriweather, the only receiver in the class
Consensus four-star cornerback Jaden Mickey
Five offensive linemen complete Irish class of 2022, including quartet of four-stars